Engagement in mental health treatment among veterans returning from Iraq
Tracy Stecker1,2, John Fortney3,4, Francis Hamilton1,2, Cathy D Sherbourne5, Icek Ajzen6
1Psychiatric Research Center, Dartmouth Medical School, Lebanon, NH, USA; 2VA Health Services Research and Development, White River Junction Veterans Administration, White River Junction, VT, USA; 3VA Health Services Research and Development (HR S&D), Center for Mental Health and Outcomes Research, Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, North Little Rock, AR, USA; 4Division of Health Services Research, Department of Psychiatry, College of Medicine, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR, USA; 5RAND, Santa Monica, CA, USA; 6Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA, USA
Objectives: Many veterans return from combat experiencing a variety of mental health concerns. Previous research has documented a stigma associated with seeking treatment that interferes with the decision to seek treatment. This study, conceptualized using the theory of planned behavior, assessed beliefs about mental health treatment in order to understand mental health treatment seeking behavior among a group of returning National Guard soldiers who served in the war in Iraq.
Methods: Participants were one hundred and fifty Operation Iraqi Freedom National Guard soldiers who screened positive for depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder or alcohol abuse disorder on the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI). Participants were asked to complete a questionnaire assessing beliefs about mental health treatment and treatment-seeking behavior.
Results: Beliefs related to symptom reduction and work were significantly related to mental health treatment-seeking behavior.
Conclusions: Interventions developed to engage veterans into care must be directed toward cognitive factors that motivate treatment seeking in addition to traditionally targeted structural barriers.
Keywords: treatment-seeking behavior, mental health